let's be frank

20 truths

I. Sakura is not upset when she wakes up alone in the morning on a cold, hard bench, nearly blue from the cool air grazing her pale skin. Sakura is not heartbroken, nor is she crestfallen. Sakura is livid. This is the first time she realizes that, if she ever runs into the cold, hard bastard she is head-over-heels in love with, she'll need to harbor the strength to cause him devastating physical damage the way he caused her emotional walls to crumble before her very eyes.

II. Sakura does not cry a single tear while she is apart from her boys. Her eyes have long since been drained of water, replaced with a look of calculation, pride and patience. She silently waits for the return of the exuberant blonde and even the quiet traitor, training until she vomits bile and the skin on her knuckles is nonexistent. Sometimes, when the Tsunade-shishou refuses to train her, eyes dull and stomach empty, and Kakashi-sensei treats her to a bowl of miso ramen—Naruto's favorite—she allows her mind to wander to a set of bells, innocent, emerald eyes and calloused hands that allowed her to hold on tight once upon a time.

III. It is two-weeks after Naruto's return that Sakura wishes she could love him back that way he loves her. He is strong, trained, toned, surprisingly handsome, subtly intelligent, sweeter than dango and everything and anything a girl could ask for. She thinks how much easier her life would be if she could just fall for the boy with the sad cerulean eyes and the laugh that is so contagious it might as well be the flu. Oh, how happy they would be; she could easily be the Hokage's wife and he would make her smile every day of her life, asking for nothing in return. Life isn't that easy though, she remembers and realizes she will never fall in love with Naruto, even if she tries and that's okay.

VI. When she sees Sasuke for the first time in two-years, her first instinct is to gather chakra at the base of her knuckles and ready herself for battle. It is in that moment, when Sasuke's attention is drawn to Naruto rather than herself, that she realizes, if she's ever going to get the attention of the silent boy with the empty, black eyes and haunting past, she is going to have to demand it.

V. When she sees Sasuke for the second time after he has betrayed her beloved land, a part of her wishes it is the last. That same part of her wishes that she could be the ninja she was trained to be—cool, emotionless and hard—and just put the poor, broken bastard out of his misery. The other part of her sadly knows that is impossible, because she is Sakura and she loves, cherishes and holds onto things until there is nothing left but black and white memories and broken promises, even if those things don't deserve her. Even when Sasuke puts a kunai to her neck in a threat of defiance and homicidal distrust, she smiles sadly, disappointed in her weakness—"Maybe you're right, Sasuke-kun."—and allows herself to be saved by the boy she'll never love.

VI. When she sees Sasuke for the third time after he has betrayed the village, he is being dragged back by hair down to the nape of his neck, alabaster skin caked in dry blood, eyes familiarly dull and thin lips set into a grim line. When he is finally at the gates, Naruto allows him to stand on his own, knowing he cannot do much with chakra nearing zero and energy nonexistent; Naruto counts his blessings that his stamina approaches infinite levels. Sakura does not yell, does not throw fists, does not cry or show any signs of weakness in the slightest. She approaches him as quietly as possible, as if not to disturb or shock him like a caged animal, brings him into a hug that he does not shake from and welcomes him back. She then lifts her hand to his neck, efficiently removing him from a state of awareness and pain altogether and instructs her brother to bring him to the hospital, an order he can't refuse with dry eyes.

VII. At the trial, Sakura half-expects Sasuke to stubbornly refuse any cop-outs Tsunade-shishou might give him. He does the exact opposite and even thanks the Hokage, albeit monotone, and Sakura, for the first time in five-years, cries until she is heaving and gives the love of her life a well-deserved slap across the face.

VIII. She does not speak to him, aside from polite greetings and "How are you, Sasuke-kun?"-s, for another year.

IX. He is the first to approach her on the grounds of her medical prowess, and, though he does not exactly say it, she knows he acknowledges her strengths as a ninja and, though she does not exactly say it, she forgives him with every fiber of her lithe being, because she could never stay mad at Sasuke-kun.

X. Sasuke is, slowly but surely, going blind—just like his brother—, they both know this and there is almost nothing she can do about it, but soothe the pain and almost beg him to stop using his Sharingan altogether, which she believes will only fall on deaf ears. She is the first to notice that he does not use it whilst training against Naruto and loses, missing a beat in their normal draws, but he does not complain. For the first time in a long time, he is tired, but not in pain.

XI. One day, when they are training, he sits himself beside the pinkette and takes a sip of her canteen, having forgotten his own. She giggles and flushes the color of tomatoes when Naruto claims, "Sakura-chan and the bastard just indirectly kissed!"

XII. Every Thursday night, they go out for ramen as a tradition from the broken past. They trade the bill every week and do not mind, even if Naruto buys seventeen bowls or Sasuke buys none. Sakura always sits in the middle, between her two favorite boys. Sasuke does not like to be touched, so Sakura brushes it aside as an accident whenever his elbow settles against hers and he does not move it away.

XIII. The first time they hold hands is on a C-rank mission, Sasuke not allowed to become a Jounin under his probation. She does not notice a carriage passing the bridge, making a move to go forward; Sasuke effectively stops her by intertwining his fingers with her. In the aftermath, he does not let go.

XIV. Sometimes, she will stop by his house early in the morning with a bag of groceries and an empty stomach, eager to cook for the both of them. He does not eat anything but rice and tomatoes, so he looks forward to these mornings where they fry eggs together and there are no words exchanged other than: "Good morning," and "Goodbye."

XV. When they—finally—kiss, it is after an S-ranked mission she swore she'd be home two-weeks ago from. She stops by his house in the morning with a bag of groceries, a scar on her chin, an empty stomach and pretends like nothing happened, like she is not late and she was not nearly shattered to pieces on a solo-mission she, apparently, was not ready for. It is the first time she hears him yell and, before she can scream back and tell him that she is not weak and he needs to grow up and realize that she was trained under a competent Sannin, too, he whispers so softly that, if she had not been paying attention, she would not have heard it, "I don't know what I'd do without you, Sakura," and gathers her in his arms, pressing his lips softly and almost sloppily against hers in a first kiss.

XVI. Sasuke is the first to admit that he wants more than small, shared moments of intimacy, kisses that last only a few seconds, but linger for hours on end and sweet nothings passed between sheets in the dead of night. He is the first to admit that he wants to stake claim on the girl that has been waiting far too long, rather than hide from disapproving stares and chances of heartbreak. When tears well in her eyes and she accepts his offering of a relationship, he is also the first to realize that the latter is nonexistent, because things will, inevitably, work out; because this is Sakura, and she deserves nothing less than bliss.

XVII. It doesn't matter that her parents disapprove, that medical ninja give her disappointed stares, that the elders believe she could do far better or that the girls who have already "staked claim" on him hate her guts, because when Naruto tears up and approves of their relationship with all of his heart and more and Kakashi-sensei pats them both on the backs in encouragement, they realize that they couldn't ask for anything more.

XVIII. It takes Sasuke another five years to—finally, finally, finally—propose on the bench she swore on one too many times. She doesn't miss a beat with her acceptance.

XIX. They marry in the spring, when the cherry blossoms cloud the vision of a clear, blue sky and a brisk wind scatters them gently throughout the forest grounds. She dresses in ivory and he wears the smile of a boy repaired.

XX. Sometimes, when the children have been tucked in and Sasuke is breathing gently beside her, eyes sewn tightly with sleep, she allows her mind to wander to the childhood days of wide, innocent, bottle-cap eyes, whiskers wound tight in cracked smiles, broken frowns from the boy with a broken past, a man who is often too late and a family that would always be, no matter what.

I know what you're thinking: "Holy crap, Nikki, did you just write a story under 2,000 words!?" Yes. Yes I did.

I like it, too.

20 truths about a sort-of-not-really broken relationship only to be mended by translucent thread and duct tape.